Sun. Apr 21st, 2024

Scientists and specialists in oncology recently met at a symposium organized by the Ramón Areces Foundation in Madrid to discuss the latest advances in cell therapies against cancer. These therapies, which include CAR-Thave proven to be effective in blood cancer patients, such as Emily Whitehead, Doug Olson and Joan Gel, who are alive thanks to these experimental therapies. The CAR-T therapywhich is based on an autotransplant of genetically modified immune cells to attack a patient’s tumor, has been a breakthrough in the fight against cancer. However, its use has been limited because it requires a extraction of cells from each patient, which makes the process expensive and limits its use to a small number of patients. Also, rejection could kill the patient if cells from another donor are used. For this reason, researchers are working on new cell therapies that can be applied to any patient without the risk of side effects. One of these therapies is CAR-NKdeveloped by the German oncologist Evelyn Ullrich, who uses immune cells known as natural killer (NK) cells instead of T lymphocytes.

Hematological cancer patients

The NK cells They are the first line of defense of the immune system and are capable of detecting and eliminating infected or cancerous cells. Ullrich has created lines of genetically modified natural killers so that they detect the molecules that identify the tumor (antigens) and increase their effectiveness. These cells can be transplanted allogeneically, that is, from a donor to a different recipient, without rejection problems. The CAR-NK treatments they are already being tested in clinical trials with patients suffering from blood cancers and could be available in about three years. Omid Veiseh, a bioengineer at Rice University (USA), is working on another innovative cell therapy for the ovarian cancer. Instead of producing biological drugs in laboratories, his idea is inject microscopic bioreactors in the patient’s body that make the drug directly. These cytokine factories, an inflammatory molecule that alerts the rest of the immune system and directs it towards the tumor, are built with cells taken from the retina of an anonymous patient’s eye and covered with a hydrogel that allows oxygen and nutrients in and cytokines out right at the point where the tumor is, thus reducing the toxicity of the treatment. In summary, these advances in cell therapies are a big step in the fight against cancer. The possibility of developing treatments that can be applied to any patient without the risk of side effects could mean a great advance in the fight against this disease.

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